Georgia Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Mark Williams has announced that Georgia waters will open for commercial and recreational harvest of food shrimp at 6:00 am on Wednesday, June 22, 2011. Effective this date, commercial food shrimp trawlers can operate in Georgia's territorial waters open to power-drawn trawls. Commercial and recreational cast netters, as well as persons using a beach seine can harvest food shrimp from waters open to the use of these gears. Recreational and commercial cast net fishermen are reminded that they are required to use cast nets with a minimum mesh size of 5/8-inch when harvesting food shrimp.
Commercial harvest of food shrimp with power-drawn trawls is restricted to a period from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Federal waters (beyond 3 miles offshore) are open for food shrimp harvest 24 hours a day. Trawler operators are reminded that they must have certified Bycatch Reduction Devices (BRDs) and Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs) in their trawls while operating in both state and federal waters. Trawl fishermen should watch for further advisories on BRD and TED requirements issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Georgia DNR Conservation Rangers, the United States Coast Guard and NMFS agents will enforce BRD and TED requirements.
Trawler operators are also reminded of the 1,000-foot “Boating Safety Zone” along the beaches of Tybee Island, Sea Island, St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island. This boating safety zone is in effect from May 1 through September 30. Motorized craft, both recreational and commercial and including personal watercraft, are prohibited in these zones during this period.
“Catches of white shrimp in coast-wide scientific surveys have been below normal since January. However, catches of brown shrimp in surveys in June were above normal, particularly in nearshore stations located on traditional fishing grounds,” said Jim Page, the Coastal Resources Division (CRD) biologist supervising monthly shrimp sampling. “Count sizes, or the number of shrimp per pound, for both species indicate shrimp are of harvestable size,” he adds.
“Though white shrimp abundance is below normal, the abundance of brown shrimp in state waters is currently above long-term averages. After considering the results of shrimp population sampling, environmental and economic factors, and discussions with our Shrimp Advisory Panel, we believe opening on June 22 will maximize the spawning opportunity for existing white shrimp and allow trawlers and other commercial fishers to take advantage of the abundance of brown shrimp in state waters,” Page added.
Contact Coastal Resources Division at (912) 264-7218 for information on the opening of the 2011 food shrimp harvest season.
Contact NMFS Protected Resources Division at (727) 824-5312 for information on federal requirements for BRDs and TEDs in shrimp trawls.